Friday, March 31, 2017

Great in Misfortune

Madame Adélaïde de France said of Marie-Antoinette in September, 1793:
How great she is in misfortune! It is not the first time we have seen it, and if all had depended on her! They say her firmness has made such an impression that that is why they have not dared to interrogate her yet and begin her trial. May God deliver her from that: she deserves it.
 "It is not the first time we have seen it...." No doubt the princess was remembering how Marie-Antoinette as a teenager stood up to Madame du Barry. And of course, the Mesdames had witnessed the Queen's courage when the mob broke into Versailles. It is good to know that she had come to appreciate her nephew's wife's good qualities. Share

Why We Like Coffee

From Food and Wine:
Sometimes people just have a soft spot for certain kinds of coffee—and that doesn’t necessarily mean one brand is better or worse in quality or taste. Everyone's taste is so particular to their experience, civet coffee can the very best coffee in the entire world, or just coffee. Same as any other brew. In the end, what you like just kinda depends. Your preferences rest not only the way you taste, but your emotional ties to coffee as well. You could have the world's most “advanced palate," but if you grew up in a household where coffee is synonymous with, say, blinding pain and emotional trauma, you’re gonna hate it, no matter what kind of hoity-toity blend it is. (Read more.)

Canonization of Francisco and Jacinta

From NCR:
The Pope approved the miracle in a March 23 audience with Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, during which he advanced six other causes, approving one other miracle, two causes for martyrdom and three causes of heroic virtue. In addition, the Pope also approved a positive vote from members of the canonization for six martyrs who are already “Blessed” but do not yet have a second miracle for their cause.

However, the most significant of the causes approved is that of Francisco and Jacinta Marto. With the approval of the second miracle, the two may now be canonized saints. It is likely Pope Francis will preside over their canonization himself while in Fatima May 12-13 for the centenary of the apparitions. Francisco and Jacinta are the youngest non-martyrs to be beatified in the history of the Church. The brother and sister, who tended to their families’ sheep with their cousin Servant of God Lucia Santo in the fields of Fatima, Portugal, witnessed the apparitions of Mary, now commonly known as Our Lady of Fatima.

During the first apparition, which took place May 13, 1917, Our Lady asked the three children to say the Rosary and to make sacrifices, offering them for the conversion of sinners. The children did, praying often, giving their lunch to beggars and going without food themselves. They offered up their daily crosses and even refrained from drinking water on hot days. In October 1918, Francisco and Jacinta became seriously ill with the Spanish flu. Our Lady appeared to them and said she would to take them to heaven soon. (Read more.)

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Men and Loneliness

From The Boston Globe:
Beginning in the 1980s, Schwartz says, study after study started showing that those who were more socially isolated were much more likely to die during a given period than their socially connected neighbors, even after you corrected for age, gender, and lifestyle choices like exercising and eating right. Loneliness has been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke and the progression of Alzheimer’s. One study found that it can be as much of a long-term risk factor as smoking. 

The research doesn’t get any rosier from there. In 2015, a huge study out of Brigham Young University, using data from 3.5 million people collected over 35 years, found that those who fall into the categories of loneliness, isolation, or even simply living on their own see their risk of premature death rise 26 to 32 percent. Now consider that in the United States, nearly a third of people older than 65 live alone; by age 85, that has jumped to about half. Add all of this up, and you can see why the surgeon general is declaring loneliness to be a public health epidemic. (Read more.)

A Catholic Code of Charity in Communications

And this goes for Facebook, too! From Vultus Christi:
No one can deny that blogs, forums, and various social networks, all of which have an immense potential for good, can become hotbeds of the sins of gossip, detraction, calumny, rash judgment, scandal-mongering, and discourtesy. Is it not time to formulate an international CCCC, a Catholic Code of Charity in Communications? Perhaps someone with the prestige of a Father Z, or the giftedness of our friends at OnePeterFive could get behind such a proposal and effectively launch it.
So-called “Catholic” internet venues can become a near occasion of sin when writers allows themselves to discuss, analyze, and magnify the lapses, weaknesses, and sins of others. Even an occasional perusal of “Catholic” blogs and website reveals —often in the comments— examples of a wanton lack of charity, of bitter sarcasm, and of razor–like innuendo.  Such things do not build up the Body of Christ. Does not Saint Paul present us with the standard of Catholic blogging?
For the rest, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever modest, whatsoever just, whatsoever holy, whatsoever lovely, whatsoever of good fame, if there be any virtue, if any praise of discipline, blog on these things (Philippians 4:8).
Once formulated, a a Catholic Code of Charity in Communications could be proposed to every blog, forum, discussion group, and social network of Catholic interest. Those responsible for the same would be invited to make a public online commitment to support and uphold the CCCC. The commitment would encompass all that appears on a given internet venue, including the comments posted. (Read more.)

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Caroline, Duchesse de Berry, in Mourning

Caroline of Naples was a remarkable  woman who is one of the heroines in  my novel, Madame Royale. Here is an account of her remarkable life. To quote:
Princess Maria Carolina Ferdinanda Luisa of Naples and Sicily was born on November 5, 1798 at the Palace of Caserta in Naples. She was the eldest child of Francis, Hereditary Prince of Naples and Archduchess Maria Clementina of Austria. The young princess was named after her paternal grandparents, King Ferdinand IV and III of Naples and Sicily and Archduchess Maria Carolina of Austria. Her father, Francis, was the eldest surviving son of the King of Naples and Sicily while her mother was the tenth child of Leopold II, Holy Roman Emperor and Infanta Maria Luisa of Spain. Francis and Maria Clementina were double first cousins and although the couple was engaged in 1790, they weren’t married until June 26, 1797 due to the chaotic Napoleonic wars plaguing the Italian peninsula. The cousins were both twenty years old when they wed in a rather modest ceremony at Foggia. Despite the fact that Maria Clementina’s features were scarred by smallpox, she was a dignified and proud woman with a kind heart and a substantial education. The couple’s relationship was rather uncommon for the time, as Maria Clementina was the dominant partner in the relationship. She controlled her less intelligent and easy-going husband but Francis didn’t seem to care about his wife’s influence over him; according to his mother, Archduchess Maria Carolina of Austria, “[Francis] adores her in every sense of the word. He says she loves him, and assuredly shows and demands many proofs of love.” Maria Carolina was so shocked by just how much her son loved Maria Clementina that she “asked heaven to calm their over-excited sense by sending them children.” (Read more.)

The Civil War is Here

From Front Page Mag:
It has responded to a lost election by constructing sanctuary cities and states thereby turning a cultural and ideological secession into a legal secession. But while secessionists want to be left alone authoritarians want everyone to follow their laws. The left is an authoritarian movement that wants total compliance with its dictates with severe punishments for those who disobey.

The left describes its actions as principled. But more accurately they are ideological. Officials at various levels of government have rejected the authority of the President of the United States, of Congress and of the Constitution because those are at odds with their radical ideology. Judges have cloaked this rejection in law. Mayors and governors are not even pretending that their actions are lawful.

The choices of this civil war are painfully clear.

We can have a system of government based around the Constitution with democratically elected representatives. Or we can have one based on the ideological principles of the left in which all laws and processes, including elections and the Constitution, are fig leaves for enforcing social justice.
But we cannot have both. (Read more.)

"Can You Hear Me?"

From the Los Angeles Times:
I’ve gotten this call a number of times in recent weeks, at home and at work, and each time I’ve been suckered by the lifelike opening to stay on the line longer than I normally would for a robocall or a telemarketing pitch. It’s only when I realize I’ve heard the exact same thing before that I realize I’m hearing a recording. This is a new and highly sophisticated racket known as the “can you hear me” scam, which involves tricking people into saying yes and using that affirmation to sign people up for stuff they didn’t order. It’s also an indication of what can be expected in the future from scammers and telemarketers as automated “conversational agents,” or chatbots, play an increasingly large role in interacting with humans. I’ve spoken with a number of experts in the field, and they all say natural-speech technology is advancing so quickly that it may be only a few years until we won’t be able to tell if we’re speaking with a machine. (Read more.)

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Medal of Charles X

Here is a commemorative medal in honor of the coronation of Charles X and the last time a King of France prayed over those suffering from scrofula, which was customary for the anointed monarch. Share

Child Trafficking

More is being revealed about a most pernicious cancer which, like abortion, is eating away at the heart of America. A nation which treats its innocent and helpless little ones in such an infamous manner will not stand for long. I have been hearing about stuff like this for years and years. Trump is finally going to do something about it. From Health Impact News:
In this Buzzsaw interview, filmmaker Sean Stone interviews Tammi Stefano, the Executive Director of The National Safe Child Coalition (NSCC), and exposes much of the corruption happening within Child Protection Services and Family Courts. This might be one of the few interviews currently available on the Internet that gives this much information on the child sex trafficking business that exists in LA County, and across the nation. Tammi Stefano reveals some very shocking information about the child and human trafficking business currently operating in the United States, which is a huge illegal business that brings in more money than the illegal drug trade and illegal arms trade combined.

Tammi Stefano has spent over two decades on front lines fighting for child safety. She understands the emotions of being victimized, having survived a kidnapping in her younger years. Determination was the driving force that prompted her to go undercover to catch a pedophile school teacher. (Read more.)
There is more on this topic from the Free Thought Project [WARNING: Disturbing Content]:
 After President Trump held a press conference last month, in which he detailed his plans to go after the victims of the “human trafficking epidemic,” former U.S. Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney weighed in on the subject, noting that going after child predators will lead to the downfall of both Republicans and Democrats in the United States — as this problem goes all the way to the top. (Read more.)
Meanwhile, 500 children are missing in Washington, DC in 2017 thus far, according to Anonymous:

More HERE. Share

The Art of Gratitude

From Southern Lady:
Words can ring hollow if our actions don’t back them up. Don’t just say “thank you”—show it. Here are some simple ways Kelly advises to cultivate a life of gratitude:
• Keep a regular journal of the things for which you are truly grateful.
• Send a letter of thanks to someone who has made a difference in your life.
• Volunteer your time, make a contribution to your favorite charity, recycle, 
or donate your old clothes to a homeless shelter.
• Strive to be more compassionate and thoughtful when you speak.
• Smile. Be an example of good manners, and let people imitate you. 
A sincere smile is contagious.
Elegant thank-you notes follow traditional protocol including these guidelines:
• Always handwrite your note neatly in blue or black ink.
• Get expressive with the language to convey the emotion felt 
when you received the gift.
• Personalize your note instead of writing something generic.
• Tell the person how you plan to use the present; make the 
giver feel special by complimenting his or her taste.
• Mail your notes to make the recipient feel official.
• Write your thank-you note as soon as possible (within two weeks for a gift and three months for a wedding gift). But don’t fret if your note goes out later. Just acknowledge your lateness along with your gratitude. Where gratitude is concerned, “better late than never” is certainly true. (Read more.)

Monday, March 27, 2017

New Photo of Harriet Tubman

My brave fellow Marylander. Share

Trump's Wall

From the American Thinker:
Critics of the border wall proposed by President Trump have said the cost is prohibitive under current budget and economic conditions, that no way is Mexico going to pay for it, and shifting funds away from the TSA, Coast Guard, and FEMA are counterproductive in terms of national security. These criticisms ignore the costs to the U.S. in terms other than money -- increased crime, overtaxed law enforcement, the drain on public resources such as education, medical care, etc., and the driving down of real wages through an endless supply of cheap labor.

In fact, thanks in large part to the mere threat of the wall, the sudden enforcement of existing law, and the stripping of funding from sanctuary cities by President Trump, illegal immigration has plummeted by 40 percent in February, a trend that if continued will reduce the costs and burdens of illegal immigration to the point that the benefits of enhanced border security, including the wall, will be more than paid for. As the New York Post noted:
The number of illegal immigrants crossing into the United States from Mexico declined by 40 percent from January to February, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said on Wednesday.
The downturn came after President Donald Trump took office on Jan. 20 vowing to deport many of the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States…
He said the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency, which compiled the data, historically sees a 10 percent to 20 percent increase in apprehensions of illegal immigrants from January to February…
“Since the administration’s implementation of Executive Orders to enforce immigration laws, apprehensions and inadmissible activity is trending toward the lowest monthly total in at least the last five years,” Kelly said.
President Trump has shown that border security is not that hard. It merely requires willpower and resolve that puts the impact of illegal immigration on America and its citizens above the impact on the political fortunes of pandering politicians. (Read more.)

Writing in Third Person Omniscient vs Third Person Limited

From Reedsy:
In this post, we’ll be looking at the options available to authors writing in the third person: omniscient and limited. In third person omniscient narration, the narrator has a god’s eye view of the story and is privy to all characters’ thoughts, as well as knowledge of the past and future. Then there’s third person limited, where the narrator’s scope of knowledge is intimately tied to a particular character — very often the protagonist. (Read more.)

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Louis-Joseph and Louis-Charles

Miniatures of Louis-Joseph and Louis-Charles, the two sons of Marie-Antoinette and Louis XVI. Share

Keep Calm and Propagandize On

From The Spectator:
In 2006, Melanie Phillips wrote a book called Londonistan: How Britain Is Creating a Terror State Within. She argued that Britain was a sitting duck for Islamic terrorists, owing to its idiotic embrace of political correctness, multiculturalism, and religious relativism.
She wrote:
Britain is in denial. Having allowed the country to turn into a global hub of the Islamic jihad without apparently giving it a second thought, the British establishment is still failing even now — despite the wake-up calls of both 9/11 and the London bomb attacks of 2005 — to acknowledge what it is actually facing and take the appropriate action. Instead, it is deep into a policy of appeasement of the phenomenon that threatens it, throwing sops to both radical Islamism and the Muslim community in a panic-stricken attempt to curry favour and buy off the chances of any further attacks. This disastrous policy ignores the first law of terrorism which is that it preys on weakness. The only way to defeat it is through strength — the strength of a response based on absolute consistency and moral integrity, which arises in turn from the strength of belief in the values that are being defended.
The left greeted the book with hisses and dismissed Phillips as an alarmist crank. But on Monday her description of Britain’s capital as “Londonistan” came graphically to life, as a terrorist chose one of its chief symbols, the area around the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, as the place to plow his car into pedestrians and then stab a police officer.

The initial reporting after terrorist attacks these days is often full of hesitation and curious silences. The death toll is usually low-balled and the identity of the attacker is left hazy for as long as possible. So it is not surprising that the first reports on this attack identified the terrorist as merely “Asian.”
(Read more.)

Spiritual Warfare

From Roman Catholic Man:
I am convinced we are in the throes of the greatest spiritual war of all times. Here is my assessment…
  • More Christians have died for their faith in this past century than all other centuries of church history combined.
  • Since 1973, 1,720,000,000 babies have been sacrificed on the altar of sexual hedonism.
  • Sex outside of marriage has become the norm.
  • Birth control is a way of life.
  • Marriage has been redefined for the first time in civilization.
  • Illegitimacy rates have soared.
  • The divorce rate is at epidemic proportions.
  • Sodomy and homosexuality are celebrated openly.
  • Grown men must be allowed to share bathrooms with little girls.
  • With the advent of high speed internet, scores of men, in particular, are now addicted to pornography and masturbation which, in their spiritual death, makes them incapable to serve in this spiritual warfare.
  • Drug use and addiction has exploded.
  • Islamic terrorism has erupted worldwide.
  • Christian values and morals are disparaged as a “problem,” not a remedy in our culture, as religious freedom is under constant assault.
  • Every major institution has been captured by the radical secular left … The media, Hollywood, TV, universities, public schools, theater, the arts, literature — they relentlessly promote the false gods of sexual hedonism and radical individualism.
  • In this Information Age (television, internet, etc.), the anti-God indoctrination is, as never before, in hyperdrive.
Within the Church, the intoxication of worldliness means indifference and complacency have laid hold of a multitude of souls, making them quick to scorn anyone sounding an alarm as too dark, too pessimistic and prophets of doom. Furthermore, anyone imploring the faithful to remain steadfast and loyal to Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition, is mocked as “rigid.” Why? We are presently passing through the most powerful rebellion ever – greater than the Arian heresy and the Protestant rebellion – of rampant relativism (fueled by ambiguous teaching leading to cafeteria Catholicism) and a “super-secularism” which moved at a lightning speed to remove any sense of the sacred in art, architecture and worship. In the wake of this devastating rebellion, the number of practicing Catholics has plummeted from nearly 80% to under 25% (5% in many parts of Europe), in just the past 50 years. And yet, one still wonders the percentage of those 25% of “practicing” Catholics who are truly devout and 100% orthodox (an unquantifiable number). Do I exaggerate? Is anything above “fake news”? (Read more.)

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Engravings of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette

Engravings of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette in court dress, 18th century. Share

My Truth, Your Truth

From The Stream:
Tomi’s tweet represents the individualism of modern culture. It does not represent the constitutionalism of the Founders. For limited government to survive, society must share an absolute moral code. How can we respect someone else’s rights to life and liberty if we do not agree on what life and liberty even mean? Tomi isn’t alone in her “my truth, your truth” universe. She’s joined by a growing number of people who value unrestricted freedom above any moral standard

Stream contributor Joshua Charles reflected on this after the Milo Yiannopoulos uproar. He wrote, “Conservatism without virtue is not conservatism.” For some this statement may be obvious, but to a growing number of people it isn’t. That’s because people aren’t taught what “conservative” means anymore. Radio host Steve Deace addressed this in his Conservative Review column, “I Know Why I’m a Conservative. Do You?” He writes:
Many people calling themselves conservatives don’t know what “conservatism” means. … This is why we fall for the likes of provocateurs with troubled souls or flat-out charlatans provided they produce anti-Left click bait. Conservatism is merely defined by opposition to the Left these days, simply because conservatism itself is undefined these days.
 (Read more.)

Seven Catholic Scientists

From ChurchPop:
Louis Pasteur, inventor of the process pasteurization (one of the biggest breakthroughs ever for preventing disease), was once praying the Rosary on a train when a young man criticized his devotion as a manifestation of scientific ignorance. Pasteur simply had to introduce himself to dispel this spurious charge of superstition. Apocryphal or not, the anecdote is confirmed by Pasteur’s many quotes in favor of the life of faith:
“A little science takes you away from God but a lot of science takes you back to Him… Question your priorities often, make sure God always comes first… Posterity will one day laugh at the sublime foolishness of the modern materialistic philosophy. The more I study nature, the more I stand amazed at the work of the Creator.

“I pray while I am engaged at my work in the laboratory… Blessed is he who carries within himself a God, an ideal, and who obeys it: ideal of art, ideal of science, ideal of the gospel virtues, therein lie the springs of great thoughts and great actions; they all reflect light from the Infinite… Do not let yourself be tainted with a barren skepticism… Could I but know all, I would have the faith of a Breton peasant woman.” (Read more.)

Friday, March 24, 2017

Crown of Princess Blanche

Most of the crown jewels of England were destroyed by the Puritans in the sixteen hundreds. The rare pieces that survive from before that time give us a tantalizing glimpse of what has been lost. From Vintage News:
Made of gold with enamel, sapphires, rubies, emeralds, diamonds, and pearls, the Crown of Princess Blanche, also called the Palatine Crown or Bohemian Crown, is the oldest surviving royal crown known to have been in England, and probably dates to the years after 1370. The crown came to the Palatinate line of the House of Wittelsbach in 1402 as a dowry of Princess Blanche of England, a daughter of King Henry IV of England, on her marriage to Louis III, Elector Palatine.

However, it is not thought that the crown was made for Blanche because it was first recorded in a list of 1399, recording the movement of some royal jewels in London, some two years before the marriage of Princess Blanche. Experts believe that the crown probably belonged to King Edward III or Queen Anne of Bohemia, the wife of King Richard II, whom she married in 1382. (Read more.)

The Innocence of Kaiser Wilhelm II

Like many students of modern history, I have spent my life seeing Kaiser Wilhelm II as a buffoonish warmonger whose vanity stirred up the Armageddon of World War I. For propaganda purposes during the war, the Kaiser was portrayed as a relentless bogey-man who wanted to take over the world. Later, he was depicted as a prelude to Hitler, personally responsible for the rise of German belligerence and the mass atrocities of the global conflict. To top it off, he was mean to his mother. Based upon letters, memoirs, newspapers and other primary sources, English historian Christina Croft succeeds in constructing a fresh perspective of the last reigning Hohenzollern monarch. Written with a commanding knowledge of the great dynasties of Europe, as well as of the diplomacy of global conflicts, Croft's new biography The Innocence of Kaiser Wilhelm II gives not only an understanding of the Kaiser but of the complex political situation he faced, as well as of the many forces of change which Wilhelm and the other monarchs did not understand until it was too late.

The book relates the painful events of Wilhelm's childhood, especially in regard to his crippled arm. In spite of his handicap, he learned to ride and shoot and do all the things that princes had to do. His parents, Frederick of Prussia and Victoria of Great Britain, the Crown Prince and Princess of Prussia and eventually of a united Germany, were strict about him overcoming his disability. His relationship with his mother was complex and damaged early on from misunderstandings; all efforts to mend the relationship seemed to worsen it. Wilhelm appears to have been a sensitive and creative child who required a great deal of attention.Vicky basically found Wilhelm difficult and incomprehensible and could not deal with him, although he adored her. He was close to his father, the Crown Prince, as much as Vicky would allow it. The person with whom he had the most strong and loving bond was his grandmother, Queen Victoria. Wilhelm was intensely fond of England as a young man and one of the great tragedies of his life was that he had to wage war on a country he loved almost as much as his own.

Wilhelm is generally seen as being the cause of the First World War, but Croft's biography meticulously reveals the facts of the matter. In the years before the war, Wilhelm was known as the "Peace Emperor," a title later given to Blessed Karl of Austria as well. While Wilhelm's tendency towards theatrical gestures made him an easy figure for caricature both at home and abroad, he was nevertheless a business-like ruler who oversaw decades of growth and prosperity for Germany. Not only did Wilhelm II do everything in his power to prevent a war but even while the war was going on he never stopped trying to make peace. He tried to work with the American President Woodrow Wilson but Wilson was determined to foster the overthrow of the great continental monarchies. Ultimately, the forces of Revolution were at work and the end of the Great War saw the fall of many kings and emperors, including Wilhelm II.

I listened to the book on Audible, an experience I would highly recommend, although it would be worth reading in any format, as it gives a perspective unavailable to the majority of Americans.


Deadly Errors

From Church Pop:
The second theme that disturbed me could be found in almost every essay in the book. In reflection after reflection, we hear that Catholicism amounts to a passion for service to the poor and the marginalized.

Again and again, the contributors said that what they prized the most in their Catholic formation was the inculcation of the principles of inclusivity, equality, and social justice. The Church’s social teaching comes in for a great deal of praise throughout the book. But in the vast majority of the pieces, no mention is made of distinctively Catholic doctrines such as the Trinity, the Incarnation, redemption, original sin, creation, or grace. For the most part, it would be very difficult to distinguish the social commitments of the contributors from those of a dedicated humanist of any or no religious affiliation.

The problem here is that the social teaching of the church flows necessarily from and is subordinated to the doctrinal convictions of classical Christianity. We care for the poor precisely because we are all connected to one another through the acts of creation and redemption. More to it, we worry about the marginalized precisely because all of us are cells, molecules, and organs in a mystical body whose head is Christ risen from the dead. And our work on behalf of social justice is nourished by the eucharist which fully realizes and expresses the living dynamics of the mystical communion.

The great Catholic advocates of social justice in the twentieth century—Dorothy Day, Peter Maurin, Romano Guardini, Reynold Hillenbrand, Thomas Merton—were all deeply immersed in the doctrinal and liturgical traditions. No one would have mistaken any of them for a blandly secular humanist. My fear is that a Catholicism reduced to social justice will, in short order, perhaps a generation or two, wither away.

Being Catholic, now as at any other time, must always involve a living relationship with both the hierarchical church, made up as it is of flawed individuals, and with the doctrines and sacramental practices that flow from and refer to Christ Jesus. Without these connections, it loses its soul. (Read more.)

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Porcelain Portrait Plate

Plate with a portrait of Louis XVI surrounded by Marie-Antoinette and the ladies of the French court. Share

The Search for Worldly Perfection

From Becoming Minimalist:
Whether we are talking about the negative effects of pain-relieving medication or any number of other scenarios, the need for perfection often results in negative outcomes on our lives. Not only does it distract us from happiness, it routinely sends us down paths away from it.

The search for perfection in our work may send us jumping from one career to another constantly looking for that one job with no bad days. But that job does not exist—the most beautiful rose still has thorns.

The search for perfection in our relationships causes us to give up too quickly on other people. But there are no perfect people and relationships, at their core, require commitment. Without patience, grace, and faithfulness, there is no opportunity for love.

The search for perfection in our homes often results in the accumulation of unnecessary possessions. Marketers routinely promise comfort and better living in their newest offering. An unhealthy pursuit of perfection makes us more susceptible to their falsehoods. These excess possessions quickly begin to monopolize our time and energy and focus.

The search for perfection in our external image gives rise to unhealthy body image pursuits. Rather than seeing them as instruments through which we accomplish our life’s goals, we begin to see them as ornaments to impress others. Sometimes even, while we never experience perfection in our own minds, we seek to present that reality to the world around us.

The search for perfection in our actions often prevents us from trying new things or experimenting with new skills. By its very nature, the desire to commit no mistakes or ever having to admit failure keeps us from attempting new things in life. But every expert started as a beginner. As noted in The Washington Post article above, the need for perfection may cause harmful addictions to take root in our life, resulting in ruined or destroyed lives. (Read more.)

Dogma and the Age of Anxiety

From The Catholic Thing:
We are said to live in an “Age of Anxiety” – just like every other age, I suppose.  The media makes more money selling anxiety. Facts without anxiety are boring.  When scientists recently determined that a huge swath of molten carbon lies 200 miles beneath the surface in the American West, reporters deftly linked the story to our fears – suggesting that if a massive volcano erupted in Yellowstone National Park, it would mean the end of the world as we know it. There are many such news reports, on subjects from solar flares to low testosterone. So much to worry about, so little time.

Many anxieties, of course, are far more understandable, if not exactly “reasonable.”  Personal health – especially as we grow older – can cause worry.  But when a doctor diagnoses a malady after tests, the certainty of the diagnosis usually brings some sense of relief. The illness can finally be treated, or at least understood, going forward. The certainty of truth is a remedy for anxiety.

The firm certainties of life vary depending on context.  On the one hand, our personal history is certain because events have taken place (even if memory fails) and simply become facts of our life. We were born; we grew up and were educated; we found jobs; we loved; we’ve suffered – the factual certainties are endless. (Read more.)

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Donald Trump, Rosie the Riveter, and the Revival of American Economic Nationalism

From Breitbart:
Trump started out by taking his listeners back to a time when America was at the zenith of its power.  That was World War II. Back then, Americans were more confident and more united; they were all in this together, aiming to defeat Hitler abroad and, at the same time, defeat the Depression at home.
And no state better epitomized that “Can Do” ethos than Michigan.  The Wolverine State was the manufacturing hub of the country, which meant that it was the manufacturing hub of the world.  And it was that manufacturing strength, of course, that enabled us to defeat the Axis powers in less than four years.  Trump recalled those years of American strength, and even included a wistful note about the manufacturing mojo that’s been lost in recent decades:
Great Americans of all backgrounds built the Arsenal of Democracy — including the legendary Rosie the Riveter, who worked here at Willow Run. . . .  Seventy-five years ago, during the Second World War, thousands of American workers filled this very building to build the great new airplane: the B-24 Liberator.  At peak production–listen to this, it’s not the country that we’ve been watching over the last 20 years—they were building one B-24 every single hour.
Without a doubt, Willow Run was an immense achievement.  In June 1941, it was just a field, 30 miles outside of Detroit.  And yet by September of the the following year, it was producing B-24 Liberator bombers, each with 488,193 parts, capable of delivering four tons of ordnance on a target nearly three thousand miles.  By 1945, Willow Run had produced nearly 9,000 of these fearsome birds of war.  And oh, by the way, it employed 42,000 men, and women, at its peak—including Rosie the Riveter (even if Rosie’s story is, shall we say, clouded by legend). (Read more.)

The Opening of the Sealed Book

From Unveiling the Apocalypse:
The Blessed Virgin has appeared to mark some of the most notorious instances of genocide in history, most notably those at Fatima, which coincided with the rise of Soviet Communism and the countless deaths that would ensue under militant atheism. Her appearances at Beauraing and Banneux in 1933 had coincided with the rise to power of Adolf Hitler, while those at Kibeho in 1981 augured the Rwandan Genocide. The apparitions of Our Lady at Zeitoun in Egypt in 1968 were similarly related to the modern day “slaughter of the innocents” in the holocaust of abortion. So Our Lady had appeared at Knock in order to mark the atrocity that was perpetrated against the Catholics of Ireland by the British Government, who exploited the events of the Famine as a means of kerbing the growth of the Irish population, in much the same way the Soviets had used the Holodomor to deplete the population of ethnic Ukrainians.

When we turn back to the opening of the scroll of the seven seals, we find that the theme of St. John being urged to eat the little scroll is rooted in the Book of Ezekiel:
“But you, son of man, hear what I say to you. Be not rebellious like that rebellious house; open your mouth and eat what I give you.” And when I looked, behold, a hand was stretched out to me, and behold, a scroll of a book was in it. And he spread it before me. And it had writing on the front and on the back, and there were written on it words of lamentation and mourning and woe.  And he said to me, “Son of man, eat whatever you find here. Eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel.” So I opened my mouth, and he gave me this scroll to eat. And he said to me, “Son of man, feed your belly with this scroll that I give you and fill your stomach with it.” Then I ate it, and it was in my mouth as sweet as honey. And he said to me, “Son of man, go to the house of Israel and speak with my words to them." (Ezek 2:19-3:4)
The Prophet Ezekiel was similarly commanded to eat a scroll containing the Word of God when he was commissioned to prophesy to the people of Israel, warning them of their fate. Immediately after Ezekiel eats the little scroll, he was then taken to the exiles at the Chebar Canal:
Then the Spirit lifted me up, and I heard behind me the voice of a great earthquake: “Blessed be the glory of the Lord from its place!” It was the sound of the wings of the living creatures as they touched one another, and the sound of the wheels beside them, and the sound of a great earthquake. The Spirit lifted me up and took me away, and I went in bitterness in the heat of my spirit, the hand of the Lord being strong upon me. And I came to the exiles at Tel-abib, who were dwelling by the Chebar canal, and I sat where they were dwelling. And I sat there overwhelmed among them seven days. (Ezek 3:12-15)
The Chebar Canal is a location found along the River Euphrates, where Ezekiel was granted his vision of the Four Living Creatures in Ezek 1 – the four cherubim who restrain the appearance of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse until the opening of the seven seals. As I show in the book, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are one and the same as the “four angels bound at the great river Euphrates” mentioned in Rev 9, who are released to kill a third of “the people” (i.e. a third of the world’s Jewish population during the Holocaust).... (Read more.)

Regency Spinsters

From English Historical Fiction Authors:
Spinsterhood was considered ‘unnatural’ for a woman, even though nearly one in four upper class girls remained unmarried (Day, 2006)....However, if a single woman possessed independent means—a fortune of her own sufficient for her to live on, it was possible she could maintain her own household and carry on an independent life. Female investors were not unknown and their capital supported the joint stock companies behind municipal utilities and railways. Wise investments could provide a steady income without administrative worries. (Davidoff & Hall, 2002)

Not all women were so fortunate as to have independent means, and even if they were, male relatives might make it difficult or impossible for her to access her own fortune. (Naturally the men in her life knew better how to manage her affairs than she.) In those cases, a spinster would have two choices, find a job to support herself or live in the house of a relative.

Upper class ladies had limited job prospects, given their desire to remain respectable—and their more or less complete lack of marketable skills. Genteel options were limited to being a lady’s companion or a governess.

Being a governess required an education that not all ladies had and was not necessarily an enviable position. Within the households they served, the existed in a nether realm, not equal to the family but above the servants. Often, a governess would associate with neither, virtually shut away from all society. She would also be vulnerable, as all female servants were, to (unwanted) advances from the males of the household. (Read more.)

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

La Chambre de la Reine

The ceiling in Marie-Antoinette's state room at Versailles. Share

Why Planned Parenthood Must be Defunded

From Life Site:
Moderator Jake Tapper interjected, accusing Ryan of "[believing] in providing more choice for people when it comes to health insurance – except for Planned Parenthood."

"Well, there’s a longstanding principle that we’ve all believed in — and by the way, this is for pro-choice/pro-life people — that we don't want to commit taxpayer funding for abortion and Planned Parenthood is the largest abortion provider," responded Ryan. "So we don’t want to effectively commit taxpayer money to an organization providing abortions but we want to make sure that people get their coverage."

"That's why there's no conflict by making sure that these dollars go to federal community health centers, which provide these services and have a vast, larger network than these Planned Parenthood clinics, which are surrounded by a lot of controversy," continued Ryan. "And we don’t wanna commit people's taxpayer to effectively funding something that they believe is morally unconscionable. Not everybody believes that – I understand that. But that's a longstanding principle we've had in this country that we wanna maintain."

"Of course, taxpayer dollars don't fund abortions, right now, right, because of the Hyde Amendment?" Tapper asked.
"Right, but they get a lot of money and, you know, money’s fungible and it effectively floats these organizations which then use other money," said Ryan. "You know, money’s fungible. You don’t have this controversy by funding health centers."

Ryan also promised that repealing Obamacare is a top priority for Republicans. "We're working on this as fast as possible," he said. The goal is to repeal and replace Obamacare "at the same time, and in some cases in the same bill."

Watch the full exchange here.

Planned Parenthood commits an average of 897 abortions each day. Ninety-four percent of its pregnancy-related services are abortion. Its executives have been caught haggling over baby body parts. Investigators have also caught Planned Parenthood aiding child sex traffickers and covering up sexual abuse. (Read more.)

American Colonial Missionaries in the Philippines

Here is an article which really ties in with the new book I am writing. From Edwardian Promenade:
American Protestants did not want to see the return of the Spanish friars who had fled the country in the 1896 Philippine Revolution, and so they spread themselves out as widely as possible throughout the islands, taking up positions in vacated towns. They divided the large islands among themselves: the Presbyterians got Negros and Samar; Panay went to the Baptists; Mindanao went mostly to the Congregationalists; and Luzon was split between the Presbyterians, Methodists, and United Brethren. Only the Seventh Day Adventists and Episcopalians did not ratify this agreement.


And, it is true, the missionaries did do some good work. First, they could be more inclusive than normal colonial officials. They offered opportunities for Filipinos to join their ranks as members, ministers, and missionaries. At Silliman, a Filipino had to pass an examination and earn the members’ vote, but if he or she (most likely he) did so, he could be tasked to spread the word throughout the rest of Negros and Cebu islands. By 1907, only six years after the founding of Silliman, there were five ordained Filipino ministers. They could preach in their vernacular languages—in fact, it was encouraged in order to reach a wider audience. (Read more.)

Monday, March 20, 2017


Here is a ring with a portrait of Marie-Antoinette which belonged to the Royal Governess, Madame de Polignac.


The Facts are True, the News is Fake

From Incerto:
It is impossible for anyone to write a perfectly rationally argued document without a segment that, out of context, can be transformed by some dishonest copywriter to appear totally absurd and lend itself to sensationalization, so politicians, charlatans and, more disturbingly, journalists hunt for these segments. “Give me a few lines written by any man and I will find enough to get him hung” goes the saying attributed to Richelieu, Voltaire, Talleyrand, a vicious censor during the French revolution phase of terror, and a few others. As Donald Trump said “The facts are true, the news is fake” –ironically at a press conference in which he suffered the same selective reporting as my RSA event. (Read more.)

Common Writing Errors

I am blogging this article so I can refer to it more easily in the future. There is a lot of helpful information. To quote:
Have you ever bought a New York Times bestseller and found a typo or a glaring error? It’s happened to most of us. Errors can detract from the overall impression of quality readers expect of a published book. This can lead to negative reviews and low ratings, which can have an undesirable impact on sales.

The occasional error is practically inevitable in a finished manuscript, but striving for perfection is still a worthy aim. Understanding the most common mistakes can help authors approach their work and editing process with more clarity — and keep them from stumbling on common pitfalls. At Reedsy, we work with experienced developmental editors, copy editors, and proofreaders. I asked them a simple question: “What’s the most common writing mistake you see even bestselling authors making?” You’ll find their answers below, from big-picture mistakes down to the nitty-gritty of grammar and punctuation.

1. Show, don’t tell

This might be the most commonly cited mistake among editors. Authors are naturally prone to telling rather than showing. This means that rather than letting the reader experience a story through action, dialogue, thoughts, and senses, the author summarizes or describes what has happened. They often do this by info-dumping prose or by stating a character’s emotions rather than showing how those emotions are conveyed. (Read more.)

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Minimalist Styles for Spring

From Apt. 34:
The formula for minimal style is fairly straight forward. Step one: pick a monochromatic color palette and stick with it. White is my favorite pretty much all year round, but then comes camel, black, gray and navy. Right now I’m actually into a light putty, even so far as going with a blush piece or two, for spring. And a good striped shirt is a nice change from the classic white button down, but can still function as a neutral.

Denim is my closet’s foundation, but I’m ready to say see ya to all the skin tight and overly-distressed jeans that have been the look du jour. Wide legs are having their day. Extra long and high waisted or cropped at the ankle, either way, they look stellar. And kick that stretchy denim to the curb. Raw denim, though a bit more finicky, is really denim at its best. You just need a good fit in the waist and butt (cuz they will stretch out) but that crisp straight leg is a good look on anyone.

Since becoming a mom I’ve (sadly) kicked virtually all of my heels to the curb. My shoe wardrobe now consists of the following; a good slip-on sneaker, a loafer, an ankle boot and a sandal. Done.
And even though they’re called basics, minimal pieces can be anything but. If you invest in high quality fabrics – think cashmere, Japanese linen, good chunky knits, supple leathers – the craftsmanship is going to stand out in the fast-fashion crowd. And the details don’t hve to be boring.

I’m obsessed with the oversized cuff of Anna Quan’s shirts. Levi’s and Citizens of Humanity are doing some very cool vintage denim. High waists, good tailoring or dramatically oversized pieces keep your look feeling fresh.

So as spring gets in full swing, attack that closet. Set aside the 5-10 things you actually wear and then gather everything else in a giant pile. Do you see yourself wearing anything in that pile in the next six months? If not, out it goes. Consign the good stuff and donate the rest. Then you can fill in any gaps with the aforementioned minimal basics. Trust me, you’ll feel ten times lighter and ten times happier every time you get dressed. (Read more.)

More Lies About Trump

From Matt Walsh:
All of this pales in comparison, however, to the outrage over the fact that Trump is planning to “end Meals on Wheels,” thus directly causing the death and starvation of our nation’s senior citizens. Social media exploded, and is still exploding, with millions of tweets and lengthy Facebook diatribes castigating Trump and the evil Republicans for defunding the program. Dozens of articles were written with headlines like “Trump Just Announced Plan to End ‘Meals on Wheels’ for Seniors,” which, if you didn’t know any better, would make you think Trump just announced a plan to end Meals on Wheels for seniors.

The only problem with all of this is that it’s total nonsense. Trump did not end Meals on Wheels. He didn’t do anything close to ending Meals on Wheels. His budget doesn’t mention Meals on Wheels. Instead, his budget cuts a program called the Community Development Block Grant. This program, which is often abused, partially funds Meals on Wheels. But the funds it gets from the CDBG are small in comparison to the funds it gets from sources like the Older Americans Act, which remains unscathed by Trump’s budget. Meals on Wheels also subsists largely on private donations. So, it’s not close to accurate to say that Meals on Wheels is “ended.” It’s not even accurate to say that government funding of Meals on Wheels is ended. Rather, one single source of government funding to the program is ended, while may other sources, including private ones, will continue. (Read more.)

18th-Century Bathing

From JSTOR Daily:
Seventeenth-century bathing was controversial, to say the least. There were two sides to the debate: one that argued bathing was healthy; another that argued it could damage health “except in the most carefully prescribed circumstances.” Given the many plagues of the Middle Ages, it makes sense that people would be a bit squeamish about hygiene—but by the 1700s, royals had gotten the memo that their lavish living spaces should at least include spaces for bathing.

And what spaces they were. Marschner describes marble tubs festooned with water-spewing cocks, double baths for washing and rinsing, and other palatial cisterns. But Queen Caroline, the wife of King George II, was a more simple soaker. She liked round, portable wooden tubs that came in a variety of sizes for small and large baths.  These baths proved rickety and hard to maintain and visitors complained they barely held water. Perhaps that explains the special painted leather-bound floor cloths they sat upon.

Caroline covered herself with sheets while bathing. These linen sheets were suspended over the hot tub to create a kind of miniature sauna and keep the queen warm. She also wore clothing while in the tub—garments that will be familiar to anyone who’s seen a costume heroine getting clean. Wet but fully clothed, she would have been dunked with warm water, rubbed with flannel cloths and treated with soap solutions and cosmetic preparations like “Maydew” or the milk of asses and mares. (Read more.)

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Camille Paglia and the Decline of the West

From The American Conservative:
[Paglia] says that androgyny becomes prevalent “as a civilization is starting to unravel. You find it again and again and again in history.”

“People who live in such times feel that they’re very sophisticated, they’re very cosmopolitan,” she says. But in truth, they are evidence of a civilization that no longer believes in itself. On the edges of that civilization are “people who still believe in heroic masculinity” — the barbarians. Paglia says that this is happening right now, and that there’s this tremendous “disconnect” between a culture that’s infatuated with transgenderism, and “what’s going on ‘out there’.” She sees it as “ominous.” And she’s right to. This insanity cannot last. Again and again I say unto you: if you don’t like the Religious Right, wait till you get the Post-Religious Right. The post-Christian people who are coming don’t give a damn about your feelings. (Read more.)


More absurdity from CNN, via Life Site:
Reza Aslan’s “Believer,” a “spiritual adventure series” it’s called, which premiered Sunday on CNN, explores belief systems from around the world. But in a recent opinion piece at CNN, Aslan (who identifies himself as a Sufi Muslim) makes it clear that he doesn’t believe there are any essential differences between the world’s religions. As a matter of fact, he seems to think all religions are basically subjective nonsense.

“I know better than to take the truth claims of any religion (including my own) too seriously,” he writes. And considering the “conflict” and “bigotry” religion inspires and the way it clashes with reason, Aslan thinks it’s “understandable why so many people view religious faith as the hallmark of an irrational mind.”

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this is your tour guide to the religions of the world.

But he goes much further, contrasting these recently-evolved “symbols and metaphors” we call religion with something more “mysterious, “ineffable,” and “emotional”: faith.

Quoting the Buddha, Aslan likens the religions of the world to different wells, which believers dig in order to drink the same water. In other words, all religions are equally true. All roads, so to speak, lead to Heaven, resurrection, enlightenment, Nirvana, or whatever else your endgame may be.

But that very sentence is proof of how silly Aslan’s thesis is. Each religion has its own understanding not only of Who God is (or isn’t) and how we receive salvation, but of what salvation itself looks like. This reminds me of Steven Turner’s satirical observation of this sort of thinking in his poem “Creed.” “We believe that all religions are basically the same, at least the one that we read was. They all believe in love and goodness. They only differ on matters of creation sin heaven hell God and salvation.”

This is, as C. S. Lewis called it, “patronizing nonsense.” (Read more.)

The Lady Journalist

From Edwardian Promenade:
In the United States, “muckrakers”–a word coined by President Theodore Roosevelt to describe the new journalistic trend of exposing the seedy underbelly of American business and society–were mostly men. The majority of women involved in such pursuits were considered “stunt journalists,” no better than entertainers at a circus; yet, women journalists were forced to undertake so-called stunts in order to break out of the “ladies columns.” Nellie Bly is the most famous (her heyday was in the 1880s), but other women took up the mantle of exposing the inequalities and iniquities that affected women and children, thus melding the domestic sphere in which they were supposed to be and the call for reform that was a muckrakers’ bread and butter. In 1903, sisters-in-law Bessie and Marie Van Vorst went undercover as workers in factories in major U.S. cities to recount the horrific conditions through which America’s well-to-do obtained their linens and other fine goods in The Woman Who Toils: Being the Experiences of Two Gentlewomen as Factory Girls, a collection of the articles they wrote for a magazine. (Read more.)

Friday, March 17, 2017

"An Inspiring Read"

A lovely review from lovely Suzanne at Lear, Kent, Fool:
Whoever you are, wherever your people came from, and whatever you enjoy doing with your free time, I don’t hesitate for a moment to recommend purchasing Elena Maria Vidal’s latest historical fiction novel The Paradise Tree.

The book begins in mid-19th century Ireland around the time of the Great Famine, a time in Ireland when Irish Catholics were discriminated against and persecuted by British landowners and occupiers. Main character Daniel O’Connor (who is based upon the stories and descriptions of Vidal’s own great-great-great-grandfather) strikes off for a new and better life in the New World.

And, it is better — well, at least, Daniel O’Connor and his bride, Brigit, don’t ever again know in Ontario, Canada, the pains of starvation they knew too well in Ireland. But, no new home one may find for one’s self and one’s family is ever exactly Eden, of course. And, no one’s family life is perfect and without strain, loss, or seasons of deep sadness. No man’s work is free of difficulty in this hard, fallen world. And, it seems, no culture or society is without its own forms of bigotry.

Despite their tribulations throughout the years, the O’Connors’ family (a vibrant, large family of 11 children) is one which is primarily shaped and formed by deep and abiding religious faith, married love, family tenderness and fidelity. As well as a good deal of enjoyable Irish wit and wisdom, with a touch of fascinating “mystical” Irish folklore. Vidal’s description of Irish immigrant life brings deeper understanding of the background and experiences of my countless delightful and much-loved friends of Irish heritage.

For me the quality of a book depends a great deal upon having likable, relatable characters. The Paradise Tree is filled with deeply likable characters about whom the reader comes to care very much, and desires to know better…and personally. It also has a few richly described dastardly characters.

I can say from a personal perspective that this book is an inspiring read for those beginning their own families who desire to know just how Catholic families in generations past kept and handed down the Faith to their children and their children’s children.

Above all, the O’Connor story is of re-birth, carrying on and going forward in hope for the future with a faith that sustains. (Read more.)


The Penal Laws in Ireland

In 1695, the English imposed harsh penal laws upon the Irish Catholics, forbidding them the most basic human rights. The laws were intended to crush the Catholic faith in Ireland and well as destroy and enslave the people. They held firm, however, and continued to practice their faith, although deprived of everything. The laws remained in place until 1793 when they were partially revoked.

Here are the principle restrictions of 1695:
  • The Catholic Church forbidden to keep church registers.
  • The Irish Catholic was forbidden the exercise of his religion.
  • He was forbidden to receive education.
  • He was forbidden to enter a profession.
  • He was forbidden to hold public office.
  • He was forbidden to engage in trade or commerce.
  • He was forbidden to live in a corporate town or within five miles thereof.
  • He was forbidden to own a horse of greater value than five pounds.
  • He was forbidden to own land.
  • He was forbidden to lease land.
  • He was forbidden to accept a mortgage on land in security for a loan.
  • He was forbidden to vote.
  • He was forbidden to keep any arms for his protection.
  • He was forbidden to hold a life annuity.
  • He was forbidden to buy land from a Protestant.
  • He was forbidden to receive a gift of land from a Protestant.
  • He was forbidden to inherit land from a Protestant.
  • He was forbidden to inherit anything from a Protestant.
  • He was forbidden to rent any land that was worth more than 30 shillings a year.
  • He was forbidden to reap from his land any profit exceeding a third of the rent.
  • He could not be guardian to a child.
  • He could not, when dying, leave his infant children under Catholic guardianship.
  • He could not attend Catholic worship.
  • He was compelled by law to attend Protestant worship.
  • He could not himself educate his child.
  • He could not send his child to a Catholic teacher.
  • He could not employ a Catholic teacher to come to his child.
  • He could not send his child abroad to receive education.
(From: MacManus' The Story of the Irish Race, 1921.Devin-Adair Publishing Co., New York)


"Sensory and Visceral"

An eloquent and glowing review of The Paradise Tree from The Portland Book Review:
Elena Maria Vidal’s The Paradise Tree is the haunting saga of the O’Connor family. The reader follows the life of blacksmith Daniel O’Connor, an Irish catholic who migrates to Canada in pursuit of economic and religious freedom. O’Connor flees Ireland with a rosebush and the “Paradise Tree,” a wooden crucifix. He begins a new life in Ontario, where he cultivates his home and raises a family in a new world fraught with its own sets problems—some old, some new.

A sprawling historical novel, told from multiple perspectives, The Paradise Tree takes us into the lives of the O’Connor family in a voice that is thorough and rich. Vidal’s writing is sensory and visceral. The reader feels as if she is a member of the O’Connor family, slunk in the corner watching, rooting for the characters, feeling for the characters, and taking on their conflicts, joys, and burdens. We are told the harrowing tale of the O’Connor family in scenes that we feel we are a part of, and when necessary, a narrative voice that moves the story to it’s bittersweet conclusion as we leap along in time with the family.

Vidal’s meticulous research brings the O’Connor’s’ world to life. Lush provocative details enrich the novel instead of distracting from it: “Time for the ceilidh!”…Patrick brought out his bodhran, a wide drum…The general idea of the ceilidh was that each member of the company would contribute to the entertainment of the others with a song, story, a dance, or recitation.” Vidal’s novel is rich with history. She manages to enlighten the reader of the customs, traditions, and folklore of the O’Connor family through factual anecdotes and observations, as well as poetry and song, while moving the story forward instead of bogging us down in showy, didactic details. Whether we are discovering the “shillelagh” wielding “Orangemen,” or sitting down to a goose roasted over a spit and smelling the simmering parsnips on Christmas Eve, we are given a thorough history lesson without the lectures, the notes, and—thank goodness—the exams.

The Paradise Tree does what good novels should. It tells us a story, it shows us what it means to be human—replete with the triumphs, sadness, and conflicts entailed in being human—while whisking us away to another world that is not our own. For 232 pages we are extracted from our lives and into the lives of the O’Connor family. We root for them. We feel their hardships. We feel their connection and disconnection as a family while we are shown a distant time and place, filled with potentially unfamiliar folkways. In the end we are pleasantly reminded that the O’Connors’ story is just as much ours as we traverse the familiar territory of faith, family, and love, and how we still find ourselves dancing in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.
(Read more.)


Thursday, March 16, 2017

La Blanchisseuse

From the J. Paul Getty Museum:
"This little laundress is charming, but she's a rascal I wouldn't trust an inch," the critic Denis Diderot declared when this painting was first exhibited in 1761. Indeed, Jean-Baptiste Greuze stripped the traditional theme of the washerwoman of its association with the virtue of hard work and instead overlaid it with a titillating sensuality typical of Rococo art. In a room scattered with wet and drying laundry, a disheveled maidservant with an exposed stocking and slipper fixes the viewer with a provocative gaze.

Greuze used a heavily loaded brush to apply patches of paint that describe texture and surface: the folds of the young woman's dress, the heaviness of wet cloth, the dull sheen on the pewter jug, and the grainy texture of wood. (Read more.)
Via East of the Sun, West of the Moon. Share

On the Edge Between Life and Death

From Columbia Online:
Expelled from their ancestral lands in 2014 by militants of the Islamic State (also known as ISIS or Daesh), more than 70,000 Christians – nearly one-third of all remaining Christians in Iraq – are still in exile in Erbil, in the Kurdistan region. The displaced community saw a ray of hope when, for the first time, a U.S. congressman came to visit them just before Christmas.

Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), a leading human rights lawmaker who has chaired nine congressional hearings on atrocities in Iraq and Syria since 2013, arrived in Erbil Dec. 20, 2016, on a mission to witness firsthand the plight of the displaced Christians.

“When I went to Erbil, temperatures had already begun to drop below freezing, and the risk of life-threatening illnesses was on the rise,” Smith said of the visit. “U.S. action is more critical than ever to ensure these genocide survivors receive the assistance needed for their basic survival.” Invited by Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Bashar Matti Warda of Erbil, Smith met with refugee families, local Catholic and Orthodox bishops as well as government and NGO officials. Knights of Columbus staff helped to organize the trip and accompanied Smith during the visit. For the past two years, the Order’s Christian Refugee Relief Fund has provided aid to the displaced community, which has been denied humanitarian assistance by the U.S. government and the United Nations.

Following the December visit, Rep. Smith, together with Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA), introduced legislation in the newly convened 115th U.S. Congress to provide emergency relief to persecuted Christians and other religious and ethnic minorities, as well as to ensure accountability for perpetrators. (Read more.)